Louis Theroux

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Louis Theroux
Louis Theroux crop.jpg
Theroux in May 2018
Born (1970-05-20) 20 May 1970 (age 52)
  • Documentarian
  • journalist
  • broadcaster
  • author
Years active1992–present
  • Susanna Kleeman
    (m. 1994; div. 2001)
  • Nancy Strang
    (m. 2012)

Louis Sebastian Theroux (/ˈli θəˈr/;[1] born 20 May 1970) is an English-American documentarian, journalist, broadcaster, and author. He has received two British Academy Television Awards and a Royal Television Society Television Award.

After graduating from Magdalen College, Oxford, Theroux moved to the United States and worked as a journalist for Metro Silicon Valley and Spy. He moved into television as the presenter of offbeat segments on Michael Moore's TV Nation series and later began to host his own documentaries for the BBC, including Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends, When Louis Met..., and several BBC Two specials.

Early life[edit]

Louis Sebastian Theroux was born in Singapore on 20 May 1970, the son of English mother Anne (née Castle)[2] and American father Paul Theroux, a noted travel writer and novelist.[3][4] His paternal grandmother, Anne Dittami, was an Italian-American grammar school teacher, while his paternal grandfather, Albert Eugène Theroux, was a French-Canadian salesman[5][6] for the American Leather Oak company.[7] Theroux holds dual British and American citizenship.[8] He is the nephew of novelist Alexander Theroux and writer Peter Theroux. His older brother, Marcel, is a writer and television presenter.[9] His cousin, Justin, is an actor and screenwriter.[10]

Theroux moved with his family to England when he was one year old, and was raised in the Catford area of London.[11][12] He went from primary school to Tower House School in East Sheen in 1979 or 1980 and then to Westminster School, a public school within the precincts of Westminster Abbey. There, he befriended comedians Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish,[13] and future Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, with whom he travelled to America.[14] He also performed in a number of school theatre productions including Bugsy Malone as Looney Bergonzi, Ritual for Dolls as the Army Officer, and The Splendour Falls as the Minstrel.[15] He read Modern History at Magdalen College, Oxford (1988–1991), graduating with first-class honours.[16]


Early career[edit]

Theroux's first employment as a journalist was in the United States with Metro Silicon Valley, an alternative free weekly newspaper in San Jose, California.[17] In 1992, he was hired as a writer for Spy. He also worked as a correspondent on Michael Moore's TV Nation series,[8] for which he provided segments on offbeat cultural subjects, including selling Avon to women in the Amazon Rainforest, the Jerusalem syndrome, and attempts by the Ku Klux Klan to rebrand itself as a civil rights group for white people.

When TV Nation ended, Theroux was signed to a development deal by the BBC, through which he developed Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends. He has written for a number of publications, including Hip Hop Connection and The Idler.[18]


Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends[edit]

In Weird Weekends (1998–2000), Theroux followed marginal (mostly American) subcultures such as survivalists, black nationalists, white supremacists, and porn stars, often by living among or close to the people who were involved in them. His documentary method often subtly exposed the contradictions or farcical elements of some seriously held beliefs. He described the aim of the series as:

Setting out to discover the genuinely odd in the most ordinary setting. To me, it's almost a privilege to be welcomed into these communities and to shine a light on them and, maybe, through my enthusiasm, to get people to reveal more of themselves than they may have intended. The show is laughing at me, adrift in their world, as much as at them. I don't have to play up that stuff. I'm not a matinee idol disguised as a nerd.

When Louis Met...[edit]

In the series When Louis Met... (2000–02), Theroux accompanied a different British celebrity in each programme in their daily lives, interviewing them as they go. His episode about British entertainer Jimmy Savile, When Louis Met Jimmy,[19] was voted one of the top documentaries of all time in a 2005 survey by Britain's Channel 4.[20] Some years after the episode was filmed, the NSPCC described Savile as one of the most prolific sex offenders in Great Britain.[21]

In an interview in 2015, Theroux expressed his intention to produce a follow-up documentary about Savile for the BBC to explore how the late entertainer had continued his abuse for so long, to meet people he knew closely, and examine his own reflections on his inability to dig more deeply into the first case.[22] This follow-up documentary, with the title Savile, aired on BBC Two on Sunday, 2 October 2016, and lasted 1 hour, 15 minutes.[23]

In When Louis Met the Hamiltons, the former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine were arrested during the course of filming, due to false allegations of indecent assault.

In When Louis Met Max Clifford, Max Clifford tried to set up Theroux, but he was caught lying as the crew recorded his live microphone during the conversations.

After this series concluded, a retrospective called Life with Louis was released. Theroux made a documentary called Louis, Martin & Michael about his quest to get an interview with Michael Jackson to which he lost out to Martin Bashir who went on to make the documentary Living With Michael Jackson. Selected episodes of When Louis Met... were included as bonus content on a Best-Of collection of Weird Weekends.

BBC Two specials[edit]

In these special programmes, beginning in 2003, Theroux returned to American themes, working at feature-length and in a more natural way. In March 2006, he signed a new deal with the BBC to make 10 films over the course of three years.[24] Subjects for the specials include criminal gangs in Lagos, Neo-Nazis in America, ultra-Zionists in Israel. He also visits child psychiatry, and the prison systems in California and Florida. A 2007 special, The Most Hated Family in America, received strong critical praise from the international media.

My Scientology Movie[edit]

In October 2016, Theroux premiered a feature-length documentary, My Scientology Movie. Produced by Simon Chinn—a school friend of Theroux's—and directed by John Dower, the film covers Theroux attempting to gain access to the secretive Church of Scientology. It premiered at the London Film Festival in 2015 and was released in cinemas in the UK on 7 October 2016.[25]

Forbidden America[edit]

Forbidden America is a three-part series focusing on social media use in the United States among several groups, including the alt-right, rappers and pornographic film actors. On the Extreme and Online Louis meets the latest incarnation of the American far right: a political movement born out of the internet and increasingly making its presence felt on the political stage. Theroux interviews Nick Fuentes and Baked Alaska.


Theroux published his first book, The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures, in Britain in 2005. In it, he recounts his return to the United States to learn about the lives of some of the people he had featured in his television programmes.[citation needed]

Theroux released a memoir, Gotta Get Theroux This, in September 2019.[9] He released his third book, Theroux the Keyhole, a diary recorded during the UK COVID-19 lockdowns, in November 2021.[26]


In April 2020, during a COVID-19 lockdown, Theroux started the BBC Radio 4 podcast Grounded with Louis Theroux from his home, in which he interviews well-known people he finds particularly fascinating and to whom he would not necessarily have had a chance to speak before the COVID-19 pandemic.[27]

Other appearances[edit]

Theroux makes a few appearances on The Adam and Joe Show DVD and has been a guest many times on Adam & Joe's radio shows,[citation needed] as well as on The Adam Buxton Podcast.[28]

As part of the Weird Weekends episode "Porn", Theroux agreed to film a cameo in the 1997 gay pornography film Take a Peak.[29] He did not perform sexual acts in the film, but made a brief appearance as a park ranger in search of a criminal. In the Weird Weekends episode "Infomercials", he featured as a live salesman for an at-home paper shredder for the Home Shopping Network.[30]

In December 2015, Theroux captained the team representing Magdalen College, Oxford on BBC Four's Christmas University Challenge. In their first-round match, the team beat the University of Exeter's team by 220 to 130 and went on to win the tournament.[31]

In April 2022, Theroux went viral after a clip of him on the YouTube show Chicken Shop Date—in which he performed a short rap he had originally written and performed in the Weird Weekends episode "Rap" 22 years earlier—was autotuned by a TikTok user and turned into a reusable audio track with backing music.[32] The trend saw users lip-syncing to the sound and performing an accompanying dance. It has led to more footage of Theroux's rapping ability being unearthed, leading the BBC to publish an article listing seven times he "proved he was a massive hip hop head".[33] In May, Theroux released "Jiggle Jiggle", a full version of the rap which he created alongside Manchester DJ duo Duke & Jones.[34]

Personal life[edit]

Theroux's first marriage was to Susanna Kleeman from 1994 until they divorced in 2001; he later told Sathnam Sanghera of the Financial Times, "What happened was that my girlfriend was living with me in New York. She was having trouble finding work ... legally. So we got married, to make it easier for her. We never really considered ourselves married in the full sense – there were no wedding photos or anything like that. It was really a marriage of convenience."[35][failed verification]

Theroux married his long-time girlfriend, Nancy Strang, on 13 July 2012.[36] They have three sons together.[9] In a 2012 masterclass, he spoke of the challenges of combining family life with the need to go away to work on projects.[37] They lived in the Harlesden area of London[8][9] until temporarily moving to Los Angeles in early 2013, allowing him more time to focus on his LA Stories series.[38] In 2017, they permanently relocated to Los Angeles.[39][needs update]

Theroux is an atheist.[40] He has said that, while he acknowledges that cannabis is an intoxicant and can trigger certain mental health issues, he supports its legalisation.[41][42] He has also revealed that he has a fear of flying.[43]

In 2018, Theroux's Twitter account was hacked by cybersecurity firm Insinia as part of their attempt to highlight a longstanding security flaw in Twitter's system.[44]

Awards and nominations[edit]

BAFTA Awards[edit]

Year Category Show Result
2002 Richard Dimbleby Award for the Best Presenter (Factual, Features and News) When Louis Met... Won
Flaherty Documentary Award (TV) When Louis Met... The Hamiltons Nominated
2001 Richard Dimbleby Award for the Best Presenter (Factual, Features and News) Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends Won

Emmy Awards[edit]

Year Category Show Result
1995 Outstanding Informational Series TV Nation Nominated

Royal Television Society Television Awards[edit]

Year Category Show Result
2010 Best Presenter A Place for Paedophiles Won
2002 Best Presenter When Louis Met... Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Say How? A Pronunciation Guide to Names of Public Figures". Loc.gov. Retrieved 20 August 2010.)
  2. ^ Perry, Paul (4 July 2021). "The Theroux family's colourful life laid bare in memoir The Year of the End". independent. Retrieved 17 August 2022.
  3. ^ "Therouxly, madly, deeply: Jennifer Aniston engaged to Justin Theroux, member of London's premier literary family". London Evening Standard. 14 August 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  4. ^ "You ask the questions: Louis Theroux". The Independent. 7 November 2001. Archived from the original on 14 August 2009. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
  5. ^ The International Who's Who 2004. Routledge. 2003. pp. 1668. ISBN 1-85743-217-7.
  6. ^ Cheuse, Alan (4 June 1989). "A worldly education Paul Theroux imagines a much-traveled writer's active erotic life". Chicago Tribune.
  7. ^ Current Biography Yearbook, H. W. Wilson Co., 1979, p. 415.
  8. ^ a b c Byrne, Ciar (2 December 2007). "Louis Theroux: 'When I work I like to be invisible'". The Independent. After leaving university in 1991, Theroux, who has dual British and US citizenship, decided to go to America
  9. ^ a b c d Aitkinhead, Decca (30 January 2011). "Louis Theroux: 'I'm not that comfortable doing polemic'". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  10. ^ Kurutz, Steven. "How Louis Theroux Became a 'Jiggle Jiggle' Sensation at Age 52". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  11. ^ "Louis Theroux's My London". Evening Standard. 10 April 2012.
  12. ^ "Meet Louis Theroux". BBC. Archived from the original on 9 March 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  13. ^ Hogan, Michael (25 December 2016). "Forget Christmas TV: Adam and Joe's 20th anniversary reunion podcast is the best present you'll get in 2016". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  14. ^ "The Nick Clegg story". BBC. 19 December 2007. Retrieved 17 April 2010.
  15. ^ Theroux, Louis (1999). Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends: Off-Off Broadway. New York: BBC Two.
  16. ^ "Louis Theroux: a timeline". The Daily Telegraph. 4 February 2011. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  17. ^ "Louis Theroux: 'I'm not out to take advantage of anyone. I'm just being me.'". The Independent. 23 April 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  18. ^ "Louis Theroux explains why he's so stoic in his documentaries". The Independent. 10 May 2016. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  19. ^ Lewis, Tim (22 March 2014). "Louis Theroux: 'You get to inhabit quite an intimate space'". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  20. ^ "Channel 4's "50 Greatest Documentaries"". IMDB. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  21. ^ "BBC commissions Savile documentary". BBC News. 18 March 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  22. ^ "Louis Theroux to make new Jimmy Savile film". BBC News. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  23. ^ "BBC TWO Louis Theroux: Savile". BBC. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  24. ^ Kevin Young, "Theroux promises to raise stakes", BBC, 20 April 2006.
  25. ^ Patterson, John (30 September 2016). "My Scientology Movie: Louis Theroux's exposé is the most damning yet". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  26. ^ Chandler, Mark. "Louis Theroux charts 'weirdness of Covid world' in Pan Mac deal". The Bookseller. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  27. ^ Louis Theroux (20 April 2020). "Welcome to Grounded with Louis Theroux". Grounded with Louis Theroux (Podcast). BBC Sounds. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
  28. ^ Verdier, Hannah (20 March 2021). "From Adam Buxton to Griefcast: what are the ultimate podcast episodes?". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  29. ^ "Internet Adult Film Database". www.iafd.com. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  30. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. Archived from the original on 14 November 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  31. ^ "Exeter v Magdalen, Oxford, Christmas 2015, University Challenge - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  32. ^ "How Louis Theroux Became a 'Jiggle Jiggle' Sensation at Age 52". The New York Times. 17 June 2022. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  33. ^ "BBC - 7 times Louis Theroux proved he was a massive hip hop head". BBC. Retrieved 10 April 2022.
  34. ^ "Louis Theroux's viral 'Jiggle Jiggle' sound becomes full song amid TikTok fame". Dexerto. 14 May 2022. Retrieved 18 May 2022.
  35. ^ Sanghera, Sathnam (2005). "Louis Theroux". sathnam.com. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  36. ^ Theroux, Louis (2019). Gotta Get Theroux This: My Life and Strange Times in Television. London: Macmillan. ISBN 9781509880362.
  37. ^ Louis Theroux Masterclass @ Docville 2012 on YouTube
  38. ^ Bucktin, Christopher (4 April 2014). "Louis Theroux: I hope Jennifer Aniston marries my cousin Justin Theroux". Mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  39. ^ Carroll, Rory (8 October 2017). "Louis Theroux: 'For all his awfulness, I admire Trump's shamelessness'". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  40. ^ Billen, Andrew (4 February 2011). "Last Night's TV: Louis Theroux: The Ultra Zionists". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  41. ^ "Louis Theroux on Legalising Marijuana & His Craziest Interviews! The Big Narstie Show". YouTube. 2 March 2020. Archived from the original on 18 November 2021. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  42. ^ "The Big Narstie Show - Series 3 Episode 4". Channel 4. 28 February 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  43. ^ Greenstreet, Rosanna (17 November 2018). "Louis Theroux: 'My greatest achievement ? To have made a career in TV while being nervous by nature'". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  44. ^ "Company that hijacked Eamonn Holmes and Louis Theroux Twitter accounts denies breaking law". Sky News. Retrieved 20 November 2020.

External links[edit]